In the middle of summer, when the days are long and warm, and the crops are growing vigorously, life at Tree Top Press can seem idyllic. Maybe not so much in winter – at time of writing, Adam had just spent a chilly evening at the market garden, carefully picking individual caterpillars (yes, in November!) from the chard, by torchlight. But it’s worth it for the end results. The Tildsleys are committed to an organic, sustainable lifestyle. The apples which they use to produce their cider and some of their fruit cordials are grown in an orchard less than ten miles away which, they believe, was established in the 19th century.
When they took it on, it had fallen into disuse for fruit production, and was mainly used as grazing for cattle. Many, many hours of backbreaking work have reinvigorated the orchard, restoring it to a diverse, productive environment with lots of different wildlife habitats and wildflowers to encourage pollinators and beneficial insects.
“We can’t begin to tell you how many hours and hours we’ve spent there, doing laborious jobs to improve the organic matter in the soil and keep the weeds down,” the couple say. “We don’t use any artificial treatments on the plants, and we make our own hay, then rake it by hand to make little mulch circles round each tree. We make homemade sprays with molasses and neem oil. That orchard completely embodies our vision of what we do.”
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